Empowering Equestrians to Train their own horse with 100% Force Free & Horse Friendly methods

Posts tagged ‘slowfeeder’

Winter barn hacks

Here are some barn hacks that will make your life easier at the barn in winter. This winter is one of the coldest in Vancouver, BC, Canada since decades. We had a lot of snow too. Not the nicest weather to work in if you work at a barn. (more…)

Slowfeeder nets

A slowfeeder net is a hay net with much smaller mazes/holes than regular hay nets. Whereas the regular hay nets have mazes varying between approximately 8 – 15 cm (3,1 – 5,9 inches), slowfeeder nets have mazes of 3,5 cm – 6 cm (1,2 inch – 2,4 inch).MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

The goal of a slowfeeder net is to slowdown the intake of hay the horse eats so he spends more time eating and less time doing other behaviours (vices).

Why a slowfeeder net?
Horses are built to eat 16 hours a day. A big difference between a human and a horse is that we humans only excrete acid in the stomach while we are eating. The stomach of a horse produces acid weather he is eating or not.

The upper part of a horses stomach doesn’t have a protective layer against the acid. So if the horse is not eating and doesn’t produce a lot of saliva to neutralize the effects of the acid on the stomach wall, horses can get ulcers.

I can’t help thinking that it must also give them a miserable feeling when they have an empty stomach when Mother Nature want the relatively small stomach always filled with high fibre and low nutrient grasses.

Most domestic horses don’t have the possibility to spend approximately 16 hours a day grazing. If they do get to forage we often give them a flake or few flakes of hay which they finish very quickly. Slowfeeder nets mimic grazing._slowfeedernet_hippologic

Other advantages
It can save a lot of work. If you purchase a big net for your horse(s) that you can fill, you could skip meals. Depending of the size of the net and the amount of horses you have to feed, you could go from feeding hay 3 or 4 times a day to one meal of hay.

Hay doesn’t get spilled, blown away by the wind outside or spoiled by horses peeing and pooping in their hay anymore. This can save money in the long term.

It also saves work because you don’t have to spend time raking spoiled hay. It might even save disposal costs because the manure pile isn’t filling up with spoiled hay.

In general it extends eating time, prevents boredom and helps the horse mimic his natural behaviours.

As a bonus it saves you time and money you can then spend on your horse in a different way.

How to deal with the disadvantages 
Filling a net can be time consuming. Make sure you buy a net with a big opening that makes filling the net quick and easy. There are “hoops” available that keeps the opening open if you use the round shaped nets. For the square nets I found my own way of filling it quickly. See this video:

Slowfeeders can be very expensive to purchase. It can take a while before the hay saving costs cover the price of your net. In general you will be saving money by buying the more expensive ones instead of trying the cheap ones first. The cheap ones I tried broke quickly and were frustrating to use. I recommend doing some online research about size, shape, material and maze size.

If you choose a slowfeeder with holes that are too small for your horse it can create frustration or your horse might not eat the amount of hay he really needs.

To prevent frustration when introducing a slowfeeder net to your horse, it can be a good idea to give only half or less of its normal portion in the new net and provide the rest of its ration the way you always do. Most horses learn quickly how to eat out of a slowfeeder net.

Depending on the way your horse has to keep his neck and head while he is eating out of a net, it can cause an unnatural position which can cause health problems.

Be aware that you are introducing a new activity and be alert for any changes this causes in your horse.

Sandra Poppema

5 simple things to improve your horses life

We can’t always choose to keep our horses the way we would like, but there are some simple improvements you can make to make life nicer for your horse.

Friends
Horses are herd animals and for them belonging to a group means safety, companionship, play,  grooming, mates and more. So being among other horses is a must for them. We humans are herd animals, too. If we want to punish someone we lock them up and if we want to KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERApunish a person severely we put them into solitary. Maybe horses experience the same feelings if they are being locked up alone in a stall. See if you can make a change to let your horse spent more time amongst his own species. Look for a boarding facility where they provide group housing.

Exercise
Horses are animals that by nature are used to move around a lot. They need to be in excellent condition all the time to keep them healthy and escape possible predators. Playmates can help give your horse exercise. Make sure your horse has enough space to run.

A long, rectangular pasture or paddock where they can really gallop will entice them more into exercise than the same acreage in the shape of a square. In order to encourage your horse to move as much as possible you can put the water on one end of the pasture/paddock and hay on the opposite end.

Search the net for [click here ->] paddock paradise tips. Trail rides are also a good way of exercising your horse.

Mirror
If your horse spends time alone in his stall, you can provide an acrylic (unbreakable) mirror. A mirror is  never a substitute for a real horse, but sometimes they spend lot of hours in a stall and then it can help your horse feel safer. It is proven that mirrors can decrease vices as head nodding and weaving behaviour. [click here ->] if you want to read more about mirrors.

Mirror_decreases_stress_horse

Picture with permission of http://www.consciouscompanion.com/

Forage
Horses in the wild eat for approximately 16 hours a day. They make stomach acid all the time, whereas a human stomach only excretes acid when we are eating. In order to prevent ulcers and boredom make sure your horse spends as many hours eating as possible. Their bodies are developed to eat low nutritious grasses, so provide more hay that’s less nutritious. A hay- or a slowfeeder net can help slow your horse down so he can spend more time eating. As a bonus it also prevents your horse from peeing or defecating in their hay.

Mental challenges
Give your horse not only physical exercise but give him enough mental challenges too.  Let him figure things out, start trick training, horse agility or other mental gymnastics to make his brain work too. Have fun and be fun. It will improve your relationship with your horse. The more he is allowed to think, the smarter he will become.

Sandra Poppema
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